- Character Stroke Order Basic Rules

Writing characters in the correct stroke order can greatly facilitate learning and memorization. Correct stroke order is also vital to produce visually appealing characters. There are minor stroke order discrepancies between simplified and traditional Chinese characters. In this system, the stroke orders for simplified Chinese characters are strictly based on 《 》 (Modern Chinese Commonly Used Character Stroke Order Standard) published by (China National Language And Character Working Committee and General Administration of Press and Publication of the Peoples' Republic of China) in 1997. For traditional Chinese characters, which is used in Taiwan and Hong Kong, Arch Chinese follows the standard issued by Taiwan Ministry of Education.

Traditionally, Chinese is written in vertical columns from top to bottom; the text runs from the right toward the left of the page. Modern Chinese uses the familiar western layout of horizontal rows from left to right, read from the top of the page to the bottom. To facilitate the horizontal writing, the stroke order of some characters were changed. That is one of the reasons there are minor differences between the two standards. However, both standards were devised to help speed, fluidity, and accuracy in composition. The basic rules of stroke order remain the same.
  1. From top to bottom ()
  2. From left to right ()
  3. Horizontal before vertical ()
  4. Diagonals right-to-left before diagonals left-to-right ( )
  5. Outside before inside ()
  6. Inside before outside ()
  7. Inside before bottom enclosing ( )
  8. Center verticals before outside "wings" ( )
  9. Cutting strokes last ( )
  10. Left vertical before enclosing ( )
  11. Top or upper-left dots first ( )
  12. Inside or upper-right dots last ( )

For detailed stroke orders for every Chinese character, you can view the character animations on the character animator page. To acquire a natural feel for the proper stroke order, you have to practice them on the paper. You can use the generated handwriting worksheets to help you write them correctly and beautifully.

1. From top to bottom ()

As an example, the character (two), which has two strokes, is written with the top stroke first and then the lower stroke. This rule applies also to other characters with Above to Below structure, such as , the top component is written before the lower component . Click the following characters to see more animated character examples: , , , , , , , etc.

2. From left to right ()

Among the first characters usually learned is the number one . This character has one stroke which is written from left to right. Again, this rule applies to all the characters with Left to Right structure such as (leaf), the left component (mouth), which is a radical, is written first and then the right component (ten). You can view more examples: , , , , , , , etc.

3. Horizontal before vertical ()

When strokes cross, horizontal strokes are usually written before vertical strokes. As an example, the character (ten) has two strokes. The horizontal stroke is written first, followed by the vertical stroke. The following are more examples: , , , , , , , etc

4. Diagonals right-to-left before diagonals left-to-right ( )

As in (person), right-to-left diagonals () are written before left-to-right diagonals (乀). Same rule applies to: , , , , , , , etc.

5. Outside before inside ()

Outside enclosing strokes are written before inside strokes, for examples , , , , etc. This rule applies to the characters with Surround from Upper Left structure (), such as , , , , or Surround from Upper Right structure (), such as , , , , or Surround from Above structure (), such as , , , .

6. Inside before outside ()

This rule applies to the characters with Surround from Below structure (), such as , , , or characters with Surround from Lower Left structure (), such as , , etc.

7. Inside before bottom enclosing ()

If there is a bottom stroke, the bottom stroke is written last. For an example, for the character , the outside enclosing strokes are written first, followed by the inside component and then the bottom horizontal stroke. The same pattern you can find in , , , , etc.

8. Center verticals before outside "wings"( )

For the character , the center comes first before the two dots. Same rule applies to character , , , , etc.

9. Cutting strokes last ( )

Vertical strokes that "cut" through a character are written after the horizontal strokes they cut through, as in , , .

10. Left vertical before enclosing ( )

Left vertical strokes are written before enclosing strokes. In the following two examples, the leftmost vertical stroke () is written first, followed by the uppermost and rightmost lines () (which are written as one stroke): and . This rule applies to most of the characters with Full Surround structure, such as , , , , etc.

11. Top or upper-left dots first ( )

For examples, in character , , , , , the dots are written before any other strokes.

12. Inside or upper-right dots last ( )

For examples, in character , , , etc, the dots are written last.